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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Judge orders Ohio to verify registrations


CINCINNATI A federal judge ordered Ohio s top elections official Thursday to verify the identity of newly registered voters by matching them with other government documents.

A U.S. District Court judge in Columbus ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must perform verification required by the Help American Vote Act. That includes matching new registrants information with information in databases maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration.

The order was the result of a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Republican Party against Brunner, a Democrat.

Plaintiffs assert, and the court agrees, that it is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States, Judge George C. Smith wrote in his ruling.

Brunner also was ordered to establish a process by which Ohio s 88 county election boards can access the information generated by the checks.

Residents registering to vote must provide their name, address, date of birth, and either their driver s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Brunner has said the state matches registration information against data in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles system and the Social Security database. But she also has said that federal law provides no requirements regarding what to do if a mismatch is discovered, and it is up to counties to check the system for flagged registrations and investigate if warranted.

An after-hours call seeking comment from Brunner on the ruling was not immediately returned.

Defendant argues that a temporary restraining order would undermine confidence in Ohio s election process since it suggests the court has to correct a problem where none exists, Smith said in his ruling.

The court, however, has identified a serious problem, and the only identifiable harm is the burden that will be placed upon the state to perform the two to three days of programming.

Republicans, who have been at odds frequently with Brunner, hailed the ruling.

For some reason, Jennifer Brunner does not want these new registrations checked, said Ohio Republican Party Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine.

Her refusal to comply with federal law raises serious concerns about her ability to objectively oversee this election, Mr. DeWine said.

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